Cinnamon and pepper have biological pest control activity
UN/DICYT Different photoprotection, antibacterial and cytotoxic functions, essential for pest control have been discovered in several Colombian flora families by a UNal group which works in natural plant products.
This team is focused on researching particular families of the Colombian flora, important for their representativeness and traditional uses in the medical field as well as for their ethnobotanical applications.
UNal Chemistry Department Professor and Researcher of the Laboratory of Natural Plant Products Wilman Delgado spoke about the importance of the research they are developing with the Ruteceae, Lauraceae and Myristicaceae families.
“We have discovered different compounds useful in different agricultural and medicinal fields from these families,” he said.
For instance, the Lauraceae family, which includes laurel and avocado, very valued for the quality of their wood, have demonstrated to be very resilient to termite and insect attacks. Therefore it is common to see them in temple doors, such as the Barichara church.
“This type of wood is resistant due to the presence of secondary metabolites, flavonoids (natural pigments) and neolignans, which laboratory isolated have important cytotoxic activity and have also been studied for tumor treatments,” said Delgado.
In the inventories of several herbariums, including the Natural Sciences Institute (ICN, for its Spanish acronym) there are approximately 315 species and 20 Colombian genera representing 10% of the world’s Lauraceae diversity. According to estimates there are around 3,500 species worldwide.
The compounds discovered by the group are in very low concentrations, therefore they are being used as templates to produce laboratory synthetic materials.
Currently this group is looking for control alternatives for many of these issues in phytosanitary crops through natural products.
The Lauraceae family is also rich in volatile compounds. Cinnamon, for instance has essential oils useful for pest control, such as weevils that attack stored grain and can impact up to 30% of the global grain production.
Similarly the essential oils extracted from the Piperaceae family including pepper can help control agriculture industry pests and diseases.
The Ruteceae family has an important genus known as Zanthoxylum (yellow wood), commonly known as ‘Prickly-ash’, and recognized because the stalk is covered with thorns as some citric trees.
According to Delgado in studies developed with these species they have discovered alkaloid type substances with photoprotection features which are useful in cosmetic area applications. Furthermore they have also discovered benzophenanthridine type substances that have antibacterial activity.